Painted Pony Resort Through Time, an Exploration of Historic maps

Maps are everyday tools used to help find or identify a location and the most recognized of maps are the "you are here" maps.  But maps are also a reflection of the cartographers perception of the world and their representation of that perception based either on personal experience or the notes and drawings collected by observers in the field.  As such they not only vary in accuracy but also in the placement of geographical features such as rivers and mountains.  On some maps rivers appear and on others they are nowhere to be found or flow in a different direction.  Mountains mysteriously move and change orientation from map to map and the relative positions of towns moves from map to map.  Despite these shortcomings the early maps of the region still provide insight into the cartographers perceptions and views about the area.

Isolated and straddling the border between New Mexico and Arizona, the San Simon valley was home to many people through time and the earliest maps of the area were produced by Spanish explorers (unless you like a good story).  These early Spanish maps actually do a fairly good job in depicting the locations of towns and Presidios of Mexico and the territories to the north but all fall short when depicting the mountain ranges.

The video below is compiled from map sources available on the web, mostly from the David Rumsey Map Collection  and covers the period from 1789 to 1857, a time frame that covers the last of the major Spanish expeditions in the region through the incorporation of the area into the United States and the formation of the territory of New Mexico.  Of particular importance is the "1847 treaty map".  This map, John Disturnell's Mapa de los Estados Unidos de MĂ©jico was an updated map from 1828.  It was used in the treaty negotiations and errors in this map were incorporated into the treaty.  Additional historical maps of New Mexico may be found in the Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps.

The base map used in the video was satellite imagery with the locations of several presidios (Fronterras and Janos), rivers (San Pedro, Gila), a ranch (San Bernardino), and the Painted Pony Resort.  Although the resort itself did not exist until recently the land on which it sits was in existence.  These locations are marked in red during the video and their relative positions do not change from map to map so the viewer may see how reality (based on satellite imagery) changes over time.  I would suggest watching the video in full screen mode and in HD quality, pausing to examine place names and geographical features.  It is interesting to note that the original proposed Pacific rail line was from El Paso straight west through Antelope pass then either swinging north or south around the Chiricahua Mountains.  The eventual route of the rail line was north of Antelope Pass along the current route of I-10 while the original proposition was not realized until the El Paso and Southwestern line was constructed after 1900.


  1. This is very interesting checking on how people have such better technically now than the pioneers did.

    Glad you put some land marks on the maps!

  2. The technology has certainly changed and continues to change. When viewing these old maps I wonder how useful they actually were in navigation.